Lori Allen, star of TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress Atlanta,” shared how her Christian faith has played a role in both her professional and personal life and why she decided to write a book to encourage women to say yes to what’s next.
Allen’s book, Say Yes to What’s Next: How to Age with Elegance and Class While Never Losing Your Beauty and Sass, encourages readers to say yes to what God has planned next for them, regardless of their age. The 60 years old TV star and owner of one of America’s biggest bridal shops, goes beyond the beauty and gowns to use her life and experiences to help others.
Allen is also a breast cancer survivor and recently experienced a devastating fall where she broke a number of bones while filming her hit reality series. She recently told The Christian Post that she wants the world, and women in particular, to know that while life gets hard and crazy, yielding to God and His leading can inspire anyone to do what they have in their hearts.
Say Yes to What’s Next, which will be released on Tuesday, will include a guide at the end of each chapter, titled, “What’s Next Girlfriend’s” and will feature tips on self-care, health, and wardrobe.
The following is an edited transcript of The Christian’s Post interview with Allen where she opens up about her faith, this season of her life, and why women of all ages have to move forward in life and say yes to what’s next.
CP: How has everything been for you and your bridal business during these times?
Allen: We were able to reopen on May 1, and during this time we've had to create our new normal, for the time being anyway. I think all of us are asking ourselves what is our new normal right now? We had all these guidelines we had to follow such as the sneeze screens around the desk. Everyone has to wear masks because we get a little closer to people than the 6 feet distance — you're coming in and out of gowns, you're putting veils on them. Shopping for bridal is very emotional, we touch people, we hug them, we're sharing a journey with them.
It's very difficult to do behind this little mask. All the employees wear them, all the customers wear them. We're doing the temperature check when you walk in the door. But you know what? For the most part, people have been great about this because they understand that this is our normal right now. They understand that we're trying to protect our employees. And I'm a breast cancer survivor, so I've really got a compromised immune system. So I have to be careful also. So we have to do a lot of crazy things right now that I never in a million years thought we would have to do.
CP: What a time to release the book. Nobody even knows what's next, so it's great that your book addresses one’s willingness to say yes to the process wherever it leads. Can you talk about your new book and what readers can expect?
Allen: I think the title is so appropriate for now because even though life is crazy, we all have to have our faith and our hope and our belief in God. We have to move forward and we have to say yes to what's next. I just think it's so important now.
Especially for women, this book is geared to women and women of all ages. Women that, just sit and reflect and think, "We've had all this time off. We've all been quarantined at home. Are we happy? Are we fulfilled? Are we giving so much that we're just not getting anything back or taking time for ourselves? Do we have hope in our future? And do we love our lives?"
For years I have been guiding women, this is my 40th year in bridal, 40 years in December. I started right out of college and I'm actually a business major and I started a small store, which is actually right across the street from me now. I talked about how really nothing has been handed to me. I'm a very hard worker, and I give 110% to whatever I do. Now, do I have a passion for what I do? Absolutely. I don't do it unless I want to do it and unless I love what I'm doing, and you've got to wake up every day and get up for your day with joy. I think we all need to look forward to our day, and to look forward to what's next. So that kind of propelled me into the book.
CP: Women, in particular, do get caught up with being the caregivers and the nurtures. It's not easy to always do what you're passionate about because of the risk. Can you speak to that?
Allen: You have to follow your heart. I'm not saying go out and quit your job, but maybe start something on the side, explore other interests. You need to see what sings in your heart, what makes you happy. I see so many women, my daughter has young children, my daughter-in-law, they're giving, giving, giving, and I'm like, "You need to take time for you because at the end of the day, you need to be happy. You'll be a much better mother. You'll be a much better employee and employer and a much better person, more caregiving if you're happy with yourself."
CP: Your book touches on faith and how to say yes to what God has next for you. Can you share your own faith journey and how that plays a role in the passion and the drive that you have?
Allen: I started my business — 1,000 square feet and four dressing rooms — begging for people to come in the door. So I've been there. I've been through 2008 when the economy tanked. I've been through 911 when you have to keep faith and hope alive. I could have given up, I could have given up many times. I'm a breast cancer survivor, I could have let that just take over my life and essentially ruin my life. But there are times when you have to dig deep, and I find, as Christians, you have to have hope, with faith. Hope to me is the natural evolution of faith.
I've read somewhere that over 80 times the Bible says "Fear not," and that's how I live my life. I am not going to live my life in fear. I've done everything, well not everything, Lord knows. But I have had breast cancer; I've fallen and landed on my face. I had a terrible fall just last year and broke everything. It was just like an accident that happened in a second. I've had all kinds of crazy things happen to me, but yet, I have not let that fear sneak in because I'm not going to. Because I believe in God and believe in the Bible, and fear not is what I'm going with.
CP: Looking at the news, the fear of coronavirus lingering, what do you make of it all and how do you encourage everyone through the materials that will be in your book to face everything that we're up against?
Allen: Sometimes I think we can let it be overwhelming and, for myself, I've had to pull back a little from watching the news every second of the day and reading. I found I was feeling heavy, and you got to listen to your body and listen to yourself. That's when you go to your Bible and your devotional for hope and encouragement. That's what will lift you and that's what I've had to do because I'm human.
I could listen to all that 24/7 and say, "Oh, my gosh, the store's never gonna reopen and there's going to be unrest in this country forever." But I don't believe that. Because I believe, as Christians, we have to be compassionate and love one another. And I think we have to not judge. I have always not judged people. I have a multitude of friends, a very diverse group of employees here, and a very diverse group of customers, and I think we all just love each other because we don't judge.
CP: We all go through the same things.
Allen: Yes, and be treated with respect, no matter who you are, because we are all equal and we are all important in this world and in God's eyes. We're all the same.
CP: What are some of those hard topics that you discuss in your book?
Allen: I felt like that if I was going to tell this story, it was going to be 100% real because that's who I am. No hold bars. I'm not fakie, I wanted it to be true. When you explore your marriage, and you talk about times that it's not easy because it's not a fairy tale and people that watch these movies and think that you're going to ride off in a carriage and everything's going to be perfect, it's not.
So I had to explore my marriage in the book, and I explored dealing with grown children in the book, and how I am as a mother-in-law, which is hard sometimes. I explored that and what I need to do to improve and how I have given and given and given, and maybe sometimes, that's not the right thing to do. How you did as a mom and how you're doing as a mom, and then I explore aging parents. My parents are getting a little older and that's so hard, and where do you draw the line as a person to help them but not in any way shape or form, impede on their dignity.
I discussed self-care because I find the older I get the more important it is to spread the message of self-care. To me, one of the most important things is to have a routine. For me, it's to read my devotional in the morning and then work out, even though I hate sweating more than anyone in this world. I'm so proud of myself when I get finished. But just eating healthy and taking care of yourself.
I see every day and still continue to see women come in this store, and they'll say, "Get my daughter whatever she wants, she deserves whatever she wants. She's so fantastic." It's so sweet; and again, it's our nurturing, giving spirit. But when it's time for her (mom) to choose her gown, she's like, "No, just find me something on the sale rack. I don't deserve it." That's not the way we should feel about ourselves. Because the mom that has given and given and given and continues to give, each time she gives her own self-worth is going down a little bit, and I'm trying to bring her back up to show how valuable she really is.
My look at life is, as I said it in the book, it's like this cookie. With this cookie, it's divided into fourths. When you get into this last half of the cookie where you have your kids and you're going crazy and you're raising your family, and then the last quarter of that cookie is when you say you're over 55. How do you want to live your life? You want to look back on your life and say, "I gave it 110% all the way through. I ate every crumb of that cookie and enjoyed every bite of it." Or do you want to say, I pulled back and I really didn't do anything?"
CP: The subtitle of your book says, "How to age with elegance and class while never losing your sass." Will you talk about that?
Allen: I think that's what makes us unique and it makes us fun. When we feel good about ourselves, everything changes. It like opens new doors for us, our attitudes change. We want to embrace life and all that comes from feeling good about yourself, and just taking a step back, figuring out who you are.
CP: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Allen: I think the book, first off the title is just so appropriate for now, we all need to say yes to what's next. But as women, in particular, I don't ever want us to sell ourselves short. I think we have such a bright future ahead of us and no matter what our season is, I want us all to embrace life no matter what.
Tomorrow's not promised for us, you know. So with that in mind, you know what, how do you want to carry on with your future, you know, what's next for you?